The birth of his son marked a turning point for Michael Vazquez. The now 36-year-old Vazquez, a fitness coach and online trainer from Inglewood, California, realised that after bringing a new life into the world, he had to provide an exemplar for him. “Being his role model became everything,” he says, “and that day was the day when I got real with myself—it was time to grow up and become better, not only for myself but for my family.”
It had taken Vazquez a while to get to that point. Growing up, he’d been active and “straight edge”—not a partier. While he was in high school, his parents divorced, and it hit him hard. “I started drinking,” he says, “going out every day not caring about my appearance or how it affected my health or my family. From that point was when things started to spiral out of control.”
For years, he had focused on one thing: partying. “I had no balance,” he says. “I just knew that going out drinking was fun and that’s all I cared about. I was running from my problems.” That led his weight to balloon: At his heaviest, at 28, he weighed 245 pounds. Friends and family mentioned it to him; he felt unaccomplished, disappointed in himself.
The birth of his son sparked his desire for a reset. But he had little experience in the gym. “In fact, I never understood people that were into fitness,” he says. “I would even make fun of people for being in the gym and working out all the time.” Instead, he did one thing he did know how to do: run. He began every day with a run. He cut out alcohol and stopped partying, swapping sodas and beers for water. And he worked on his mental outlook, educating himself about fitness and how to stay motivated.
With a little more confidence, he started reaching out to friends for advice on a workout regimen. “I knew that if I surround myself with people that were driven it would be that much easier to keep going,” he says. In about six months, he dropped 70 pounds.
Vazquez’s family was grateful to see a healthier version of him, but to him it wasn’t just about a physical transformation. “Fitness made me a much happier person,” he says. “I am much more at ease with my life and who I am and I take on challenges head on.” He came away with a greater confidence—and a desire to push himself even more.
He also wants to help others reach their fitness potential, which led him to become a fitness coach. Now boasting an Instagram following of more than 1 million, he’s eager to inspire and motivate those who might just be starting out on a journey to better health. He’s right there with them, after all. “This journey will never be over,” he says, “that’s one thing I learned from fitness. There is always room for improvement.”
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health